Longstanding McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa will make yet another comeback to Formula 1, after the HRT F1 team announced it had secured the Spaniard’s services for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The 40-year-old Spaniard has contested a total of 88 Grands Prix in an F1 career that began with Arrows in 1999. He joined the Jaguar team in 2001, and was dropped at the end of the 2002 season, where he began his relationship with McLaren as its test driver.
His stint with the team continued until 2009, and he made several stand-in appearances during that time, including a half-season in 2006 as the replacement for the sacked Juan Pablo Montoya. His best F1 finish came at the 2006 Hungarian GP, where he finished third.
The in-season testing ban saw his in-car opportunities severely limited, and he was a surprise signing for the Sauber team in 2010, where his performances proved distinctly underwhelming and he was dumped before the end of the season.
Returning to his role at McLaren, he made a one-off appearance with the Swiss team at the Canadian Grand Prix after Sergio Pérez elected to sit out the event after his qualifying crash at the preceding Grand Prix in Monaco.
For many analysts, his appointment at HRT is a surprise when one considers the dearth of young drivers on the market who would bring plenty of sponsorship income – something the team desperately needs – and the fact that many would consider the Catalan to be a washed-up journeyman whose opportunity in F1 has well and truly passed.
But on the flipside, there are a few other issues that warrant closer examination that could help this entire deal make sense.
Firstly, the team is trying to forge a stronger Spanish identity, which includes the relocation of the team’s operation from its Colin Kolles-operated headquarters in Germany to a new facility in Spain.
The other point of note is that the announcement occurred on the morning after Spain’s general election, which saw the conservative opposition Popular Party sweep to an absolute majority win.
The party scored huge votes in the Valencia region, and with the country struggling to meet its own debt problems, the new government will be looking at ways to stimulate the economy.
Not surprisingly, the team’s press release isn’t given light to any of this.
“This is a very important step in my sporting career and one of the most meditated ones I’ve taken,” de la Rosa said.
“I’m at a very good stage in terms of maturity and am prepared to take on this challenge, which motivates me hugely.
“I am proud that Spain has an F1 team and that I have this opportunity to be its driver. I can only show my gratitude towards HRT for having trusted in me for this.”
“The team’s objective has always been to reinforce itself in every aspect: economically, technically and in a sporting aspect,” added team boss Colin Kolles.
“Without a doubt, the addition of Pedro de la Rosa for next year will be a fundamental foundation in the development of our project.
“Apart from being a great person he is an experienced driver as his career and prestige in Formula 1 prove. I give him my most sincere welcome. I am sure that he will adapt perfectly and that together we will achieve great things.”